Behind one of the best releases of the early part of 2014, “Burn the Serum,” Kyng (guitarist/vocalist Eddie Veliz, bassist Tony Castaneda and drummer Pepe Clarke) is making major waves in the world of hard rock/metal. Its riff-heavy music combines the best of Black Sabbath, Soundgarden and Queens of the Stone Age, and falls perfectly in line with Live Metal’s “Keeping Real Music Alive” slogan. They’ve made of fans of not only their peers but legends, such as James Hetfield and Dave Mustaine. But at the end of the day, they’re just three dudes, traveling the country without a crew or even a driver, and playing the music that is their passion. On the last night of a tour supporting Lacuna Coil, Castaneda sat down pre-show with Live Metal’s Greg Maki at Rams Head Live in Baltimore, Maryland, to discuss the new album and more.
LIVE METAL: Reading about Kyng, I always see the term “California heavy,” and I’m not really sure what that means.
TONY CASTANEDA: Well, “California heavy” is a term that we coined. Basically, what that is, is the heaviness that is California and, basically, everything but the Hollywood lifestyle. We’re pretty much all the dirty parts of L.A., not the glamorous part that people are confused with when they think of California. We kind of just coined that term to make things a little different and unique. So that’s basically what it is in a nutshell.
You’re out on the road now with Lacuna Coil. How has it been going for you?
It’s been amazing, man. They’re awesome people, probably the nicest people we’ve ever toured with. We hang out with them quite a bit. We’re up on their bus getting coffee all the time. They make some really good Italian coffee. Aside from that, they kick ass. We’re out here with Cilver, too, who we met on this tour, as well—they’re kicking ass—and then Eve to Adam, who we’ve become very close to. We’re like brothers, always hanging out with those guys, a good bunch of guys. All around great tour and good times.
This is one where all the bands, no one really sounds like the others. Do you like that or when you’re out with The Sword or Clutch, someone who’s a little closer to you?
As far as sounding like other bands, there’s positive ways of looking at it, and there’s negative ways of looking at it. Of course, the positive of playing with bands that you sound like is that the fans that are there to see them are possibly gonna like you, as well, because of the sound. But with tours like this, it’s like there’s more of a challenge that we accept. People don’t know who we are, what we’re gonna sound like, and then we kind of catch them by surprise, and we gain new fans that we wouldn’t normally gain by going to play with a band like The Sword. So I think this opens up a lot more doors, but of course, you feel comfortable going out with bands like The Sword.
So like I said, there’s pros and cons. To me, I think these are the type of tours that gives us a little bit of a test, so to speak, gives us a leg to stand on—like we don’t need bands that sound like us to gain new fans.
And I guess with the new album just coming out, this is probably the perfect time to do it.
Definitely. It’s not like it was back in the ‘80s where you just put out an album and it’s gonna make money for you. You have to be out on the road, and yeah, this is perfect timing.
What would you say is the best part of being on tour?
Man, that’s a good question. There’s so many things. One of the main things is being able to show people your art and having somebody come up to you and telling you how it’s moved them and seeing people sing along to your songs. We’re busting our asses here every single day, and to see that, that it’s growing, is definitely one of the best things about this life.
You guys seem like a very do-it-yourself type of band. Your tour manager is your drummer, right?
Our tour manager is our drummer. He’s also our driver. He’s also our loader/unloader. I, myself, load and unload. I do merch. I’m in charge of merch. I set it up, I tear it down. I make sure we settle up at the end of the night with the people who collect money for merch. He settles with the club to make sure that we get paid for the night. Eddie does a lot. He’s the designated driver, so whenever we want to party, he drives us and the guy doesn’t drink. It all works. We have a pretty good, oiled machine. We have no sound guy. We have no drivers. So yes, it’s very do-it-yourself.
Is that the way you like to do things?
It is and it isn’t, ‘cause there’s good things and bad things. Obviously, we do a lot more driving, which in turn makes us more tired; we don’t get enough rest. But it’s something that we’re definitely going to be changing soon enough, depending on how much more we get paid per show—the budget is the main reason. If we can get somebody to do sound for us and maybe help out with the driving, I think we would be a lot better off.
Following up the earlier question, what is your least favorite part of being on tour?
The least favorite part of being on tour is the sacrifices that you leave back home, the reason that you’re out here doing things for. Everybody has something that their sacrificing back home, whether it’s a dog, a girlfriend, a wife, kids. There’s always something that you’re missing at home. I think that’s what sucks the most, because every time I go back, I see my mom look a little older—at least in my mind. Or you’re seeing now, with social media, your family, what they’re up to, and it’s like, shit, I can’t be there to enjoy it with them. That kills me, but again, it’s a sacrifice. It’s a give and take.
So the new album, “Burn the Serum,” just came out. When you went in to start writing and recording, did you have any set goals, things you wanted to accomplish with this album?
Yeah. We went in there with the goal in mind to just do something that was inspiring to us, not just something that we felt people were gonna like. Something that we felt would be timeless, so to speak. Working with our producers, Jim Rota and Andrew Alekel—those guys are amazing. Andrew Alekel has worked with the Foo Fighters, he’s worked with the Black Crowes, he’s worked with Queens of the Stone Age—the list is endless. And the guy knows his stuff, down to what amplifier Jimi Hendrix was using back in whatever year. The guy is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to that kind of stuff. Our other producer, Jim Rota, who is partnered up with Dave Grohl on the Sound City movie, he’s amazing. That guy just knows his shit. He knows what people will dig.
It was really cool working with them because we basically brought a bunch of music to them, and they were just taking out parts that they felt weren’t needed. In our case, we tend to get a little too busy musician-wise. We just thrive on that, but it’s just the ego and being a musician. “Oh, let’s see how cool I can play and how technical I can get.” He came in—Jim Rota—and just started peeling away parts and never said, “You should do this instead”—maybe little parts, but nothing that was like, “Let me change your music and make it my own.” It was very like, “OK, this is good. Let’s take this out. Let’s put this together.” It was awesome, just a great, great experience.
Can you expand a little more on the songwriting? Is there a set way you guys do it?
No, there’s no set way. One thing is, Eddie’s constantly writing. I’m driving or Pepe’s driving, and I can just hear him humming stuff and recording it onto his phone. And then later, he’ll grab his guitar acoustically and just start writing. Before you know it, he has these melodies and these choruses. He tends to just doodle around on the guitar, and I’ll be like, “Hey, what’s that you just did there?” He’s like, “What, this?” And I’ll be like, “Do it again.” Things like that. And then sometimes we’ll get in the studio, and we’ll say, “Let’s just jam.” So there’s no set way that we do stuff. I always come in and I show the guys awesome riffs, and Eddie’s really good at piecing the puzzles together and making it a song. We just work off of each other. Everybody has great ideas. They’re all put on the table, and they’re all used accordingly.
Obviously, the first song on the album is “Burn the Serum.” Why did you choose to name the album that?
We were gonna title it something else. I forget what the name was gonna be. I don’t know, man. I guess there’s no real answer for that. We just decided to go with the title track to just kind of make it easier. We wanted to keep it simple.
I always wonder when I see that if there’s any extra, special meaning to that one song.
No. Like I said, we tried to keep things simplified. A lot of people ask us, “Why do you guys call yourselves Kyng with a Y?” Well, because King with I is taken like by fuckin’ 50 other bands. (laughter) There’s no real secret meaning why there’s a Y. It’s just to throw people off and make it unique. And it’s kind of the same thing with the title track. We tend to like people to make their own conclusions about whatever the song is about or the album. If they feel it’s a conceptual album, hey, more power to you. That’s basically how we work.
What are some of your favorite songs off the new album?
Aw man. “Burn the Serum” is one of my favorites to play live and listen to. I have to say “In the Land of Pigs” is one of my favorites. “The Ode” is definitely. “Paper Heart Rose” is a beautiful song. Eddie wrote that one on his own. When I heard it, I was like wow, this is amazing. It’s such a beautiful song, and it’s so different from the rest of the songs. I tend to like albums that have that. Black Sabbath would always have that song, like “Planet Caravan” or a beautiful song that’s all instrumental. I always like to throw something in there that’s different. On our last album, we had a song called “The Beauty of the End,” which is all instrumental. I wrote that one for my father. Everybody says, “That’s a beautiful song,” and it kicks into a blast beat song. We like to just mix it all up in there. It’s like a melting pot of different types of riffs.
Especially in heavier music, you don’t see a lot of trios. When you guys were getting together, was there ever any thought of having someone else?
There was for a second. I’m a huge fan of guitar harmonies. I love Thin Lizzy; I can’t say enough good things about them, they’re just such an amazing band. Bands like that, that have those guitar harmonies, just speak to me. I love that, and I had mentioned it. I said, “You know, we should get another guitar player.” At first, this kind of started as a little side project, and it quickly started to snowball to something big. Eddie was like, “We should just stay a three-piece and probably try to do this on our own.” He told me, “Tony, you’re gonna have to step up on bass and basically fill in the gaps.” We thought to ourselves and started thinking Black Sabbath, Pantera—there’s a ton of bands that are basically a three-piece and then a frontman. So I thought, “Fuck, we can do this ourselves.” We started to do it, and it started to work out, and I started to kick in on the harmonies. I never played and sang at the same time before Kyng. So this definitely forced us to up our game. And here we are. It’s been working out great.
These dates with Lacuna Coil are winding down. What’s next?
That’s still being worked out right now. We are going to be doing about two weeks worth of shows in between all the festivals that we’re gonna be doing.
For me, as a fan and as a journalist, festival season is my favorite time of year. Is it like that for you guys?
Oh yeah. We live for festivals, man. I think that’s when we shine the most, is in festivals, because for us, it’s just like we’re there to destroy. Just get up there and three dudes are here and we’re gonna fuckin’ knock your socks off. That’s been the case. It’s been awesome. It never fails, every time we play festivals, we always have other bands climbing up the stairs like, “Who the fuck are these guys?” And we make friends, like, “Man, you guys are fuckin’ awesome.” And then that’s how we end up touring with all these other bands that are on the festivals based on that alone, and we just build friendships and relationships. Yeah, we love festivals.
You guys haven’t been together too long—(you’re) on your second album—but what would you say is the high point so far for you in this band?
As far as the career for this band, there’s so many. In just a matter of months that we got signed, we were out on tour with Clutch, which is one of my favorite bands. We’ve gone on the road with Megadeth for their “Countdown to Extinction” tour, the 20th anniversary. That was amazing. To this day, Mustaine has became good friends with us. We text him every now and then, and he’ll respond right away, which is very weird. (laughs) I’m expecting to get a response maybe two days later, but he’s always there when we need him. Another highlight was playing the Orion festival with Metallica, being handpicked by James Hetfield. It’s just been amazing, man.
A good friend of ours—we can’t say this enough—Jose Mangin from Sirius Liquid Metal, it’s because of him. He’s the reason why we’re out here doing all of this. I tell him that all the time, and he tells me, “Look, dude, if you guys weren’t good, I wouldn’t be doing this for you. So don’t give me all the credit.” But I can’t thank him enough. There’s so many highlights and awesome things. People come up to us all the time and tell us they hear us on Sirius. That’s a highlight to me, to be able to say we created this from the ground up and it’s becoming something very cool.
Looking forward into the future, do you have any long-term goals?
Yeah. Just basically make a name for ourselves, and we want to bring back real music to the people, to the fans. We want to create something that’s timeless, something that people can listen to 10 years from now and be like, “Man, these guys are still relevant.” To us, that’s probably the most important thing because we see a lot of music that’s just almost cheap, just going to wherever they’re told or where they’re being herded to. We want to bring back that realness of music to the fans.
There’s times where we’re playing on stage, and it literally feels like—I’m sure you’re familiar with “Back to the Future,” when he’s up there playing the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance and he’s rocking out, and then he starts to kick into his own, like, Van Halen stuff, and the people are like, “What the fuck is going on?” That’s how we feel sometimes when we’re up on stage, where it’s like they’re just standing there with their arms crossed, and we don’t know if they’re hating it or we don’t know if they’re just in shock. In my mind, I’m thinking, “You guys don’t get it now, but you’re gonna get it later.” (laughter) Then sure enough, at the end of the show, they’re coming up to us at the merch table and like, “Oh my god, you guys are amazing!” And it’s like, “Why didn’t you show that when we were playing?!” (laughter) You have to understand. People are soaking it in. We’re hoping that they’re liking it, but you can’t tell.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Come catch us at a show. Come hang out with us at the merch table. We’re always hanging out with the fans. We’re good dudes. We might look scary, but we’re cool to hang out with. Check out “Burn the Serum,” and look us up on all the social media sites.